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Jack is Nimble, Clever, and Quick
updated: Sep 01, 2012, 2:30 PM
My two-year-old dog, Jack, has an issue with jumping our backyard fence, either to socialize with
neighbors or just run around playing. When he's ready he'll come back and lie down in the front yard,
but when we try to get him back in the house he runs away. We've tried treats, increasing his exercise
routine, and even an electric fence, which only seemed to amuse him. So far nothing has worked.
Luckily, all the neighbors and their dogs love him and he them. But we live near busy streets and are
afraid he will get hit by a car. It is very frustrating. Any ideas?
Dear Miss Dee Ann,
Jack seems to be nimble and quick! The name suits him for sure. I love how he's trained you so well in
the game of chase. Maybe he should consider being a track and field coach. Anyway, to answer your
question, yes, I do have some ideas.
Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
Know Your Animal!
You have a young, energetic dog that enjoys keeping busy. And, if he's not presented with opportunities
that fit his fitness profile, he'll end up developing his own, as you've learned with his self-designed
agility and high-jump courses.
Remember, dogs are scavengers, predators, and omnivores, which equates to being the type of species
that enjoys keeping busy! You and the other humans may be more of the 5K-walk personality, whereas
Jack is the ultra-marathoner. So, understand that this family member enjoys activities that might not
appeal to you.
It's important to first figure out what you want from Jack, and to make sure that it's real-istic and
achievable. You'll then want to match the motivation with the requests. Do you want him to stay put in
the yard all day? Then create the type of environment that moti-vates him to do just that. Are there
other behaviors you'd desire? Then you'll need to figure out what they are, then teach him. My thoughts
on that are below.
Reward. Reward. Reward.
Coming when called and leaving things alone when asked are two behaviors that would come in handy,
should Jack feel the need to make his rounds in the neighborhood. I think you've figured out that what
you've tried so far has been a waste of breath, so you're naturally concerned for Jack's safety, along
with being frustrated. The solution is to teach him and practice to the point that he's so conditioned he
responds automati-cally. And, I highly recommend that you train it before you need it! There's a reason
they don't teach fire drills during the fire!
Consider signing Jack up for a local dog training class, such as a basic manners or a canine-specific
sport. This would provide the opportunity to teach everyone the skills they need to practice with Jack,
both in and out of the classroom, allow for bonding time, keep him physically and mentally fit, and
strengthen your motivation to follow through with the plan.
When it comes to motivation, think about what you're using to get Jack to come to you. Whatever you're
offering has got to be more appealing than what he's involved with at the time. You said you've tried
treats, but I suggest you think outside the biscuit box and experiment with something he'll do backflips
over. My own mom once surprised me with a small piece of leftover grilled ahi tuna. Let's just say that
I'm still drooling--and listening to her-because it's fun, even without the tuna!
Be an Environmental Protection Agent
When you're not training Jack, make sure you're managing his environment. Think about constructing a
higher fence, or planting a hedge that blocks Jack's exit. These sorts of management steps may help
prevent him from independently taking a tour of the neighborhood. Creating a dog run that's large
enough for play, but that keeps the fence out of paws reach is another thing to consider. And when in
doubt, keep him in the house, supplied with fun things to do, of course.
Keeping Jack busy and engaged is important indoors or out, so scavenger hunts, inter-active food toys,
chewies, bones, and even a digging pit can all be placed in your yard as Jack's home entertainment
system. Since he's a social butterfly, think about arrang-ing doggy play-dates at your home so his
friends come to your place instead of him hav-ing to set up his own rendezvous.
While Jack is still learning to stay in the yard, you'll need to keep a watchful eye on him. Left to his own
devices, he may grow bored and decide that the remedy is a round of fence jumping. Setting him up for
success is the best way to help train any animal, and to avoid disappointment.
Paws and Reflect
Your home and neighborhood sound quite appealing, so it's no wonder Jack wants to head out and be
with his friends. However, with a little planning, training, and fore-thought you should be able to
motivate Jack to stay and play in your own home. And who knows, yours might end up being the go-to
venue for all the other neighborhood dogs.
Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and ca-nine behavior.
He and his mom work together running the family business, providing dog-training services to other
inquisitive canines and their humans. For additional train-ing and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog.
Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly at
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